Sports Illustrated The Latest To Bare Its Entire Ass Thanks To Laziness, Greed, And Half-Cooked ‘AI’
from the I'm-sorry-I-can't-do-that,-Dave dept
The rushed integration of half-baked “AI” (aka not at all sentient language learning models) into journalism has been a gargantuan mess. Execs at companies like Red Ventures (CNET) and G/O Media (Gizmodo) have made it very clear they see LLMs primarily as a way to attack labor and cut corners, resulting in soulless and low quality product, oodles of plagiarism, and no shortage of employee ill will.
Enter Sports Illustrated, which appears to have been caught (like Gannett) creating fake journalists with fake bios in the hopes nobody would notice. Futurism first noticed the practice, which involves using fake people with AI-generated headshots to write what smells like automated copy. And, as we’ve seen repeatedly, the resulting product isn’t very good, either:
“The AI authors’ writing often sounds like it was written by an alien; one Ortiz article, for instance, warns that volleyball ‘can be a little tricky to get into, especially without an actual ball to practice with.'”
Initially when Futurism asked Sports Illustrated owner The Arena Group about the practice, they just deleted all the AI-generated content and refused to comment, which speaks for itself. Only once the story gained media traction did the company shift course and (just like Gannet did) try to blame the whole thing on one of their third-party vendors:
“Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles. According to our initial investigation, this is not accurate. The articles in question were product reviews and were licensed content from an external, third-party company, AdVon Commerce. A number of AdVon’s e-commerce articles ran on certain Arena websites. We continually monitor our partners and were in the midst of a review when these allegations were raised. AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans.“
The Arena Group’s “investigation” doesn’t sound like much of one. They’re trying to claim they had no idea they’d hired a third party company (the same company that helped Gannett do the exact same thing with a history of doing exactly this) to produce AI-generated content by AI-generated people. Poorly. Employees that actually work at Sports Illustrated tell Futurism the claim is laughable.
So many of the executives at major media giants genuinely view AI as a way to create an automated ad-engagement machine that effectively shits money for pennies on the dollar. Just a giant, automated ouroboros that throws billions in ad engagement dollars their way without concerns about any of the pesky stuff like product quality, audience interest, public welfare, or folks eager to be paid a living wage.
There’s no interest in journalism or even editorial ethics here; Sports Illustrated not only created fake people with fake headshots and fake bylines, they constantly rotated new fake reporters in and out without any transparency with readers or staff. There’s a lack of ethics and competency that’s a problem before language learning models even enter the frame.
There certainly are innovative, helpful uses for AI in journalism. The problem is the least competent people imaginable have failed upward into positions of power at most media orgs. And if they have their way, what’s left of the already-shaky art of journalism is going to become a homogenized, soulless, engagement machine that will make our current lopsided signal to noise ratio look downright adorable.